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Op/Ed

ListingDoor model and assertions are not only offensive to Realtors, but wildly inaccurate

ListingDoor, built by a veteran Realtor says they save buyers from paying broker’s commissions, which they call a “loss of as much as 40 to 50% of home equity.” What?!

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A statement circulated today by ListingDoor.com proves the old truism that “All real estate is local” and rides the new wave of websites promising to help homeowners sell their homes better, faster, cheaper, all by themselves. They’re calling themselves the “Uber” of real estate. Interesting…

Last June, I wrote here about OpenDoor.com’s $9 million launch that promised an oh-so-similar result (“Sold. The Minute You’re Ready,” the site brags). A quick check today shows a whopping 45 move-in-ready homes listed on their site for sale, all in the Phoenix, Airzona area. I tried entering various zip codes and addresses from across the country, as if I was a homeowner trying to use their service, with no luck. I’m not worried that homeowners in 95 percent of the United States will be trying this any time soon.

“Veteran Realtor” launches startup with recycled model

Today the launch is ListingDoor.com – similar name, similar vision, and even more hyperbole in their promotional materials.

Let’s start with the first sentence of their press release: “In response to the thriving FSBO market, veteran real estate broker and author Sissy Lappin launches ListingDoor.com, providing profitable and powerful marketing tools for homeowners, giving them everything they need to successfully sell their home on their own.” While some parts of the country are experiencing inventory shortages and perhaps FSBO’s have an easier time than in the recent past, this is by no means a nationwide phenomenon. I am not sure where she is seeing a “thriving FSBO market” but it is not everwhere.

Lappin states that “today homeowners are privy to all the same market information as real estate agents, allowing homeowners to efficiently determine the value of their home.” Really, as Zillow has proven? Because the “Zestimate” is never wrong?

The site states that a homeowner plugs in basic data and they will churn out a market report and advise in pricing. AVMs (automated valuation models) are better than they used to be, true. But in many parts of the country, especially rural areas without lots of data points, the valuations are more often skewed (extremely high or low) than they are correct.

Why would a broker say AVMs are superior to CMAs?

I find it interesting that Lappin, a real estate broker, would tout that an online computer modeled valuation would be more accurate than a skilled agent in pricing a home.

Take for example the “best house in the neighborhood.” You have a high-end home that has numerous upgrades and amenities unseen from the street and are not reflected on a tax parcel card. This luxury home sits in a predominantly middle-class neighborhood where homes are of builder-grade, no upgrades, and less square footage. Do you think that this home will be priced more accurately by a computer model or by a in-the-flesh neighborhood expert?

These business models imply agents are just door openers

What all of these sites discount or take for granted is that agents do much more than hand you a CMA and suggest a price. They are more than door openers and open-house-sitters.

A good agent does his/her job well and gets the house sold for the highest price possible in the least amount of time on market (if that is the seller’s goal). A great agent counsels and advises, listens to the seller’s needs and take all of this into account as they guide the seller through the maze of a process.

I take offense to ListingDoor.com’s statements

While I am obviously not a fan of any site that proposes to “cut the middle man” (the agent) out of the transaction as if we hold no value, I take offense to this site’s twisting of statistics and figures to pull at a viewer’s gut.

ListingDoor proposes that a broker’s commission is a “loss of as much as 40 to 50% of home equity.” So a commission is not a “fee” – it is the broker stealing up to half the seller’s home equity. Wow. Talk about sensationalism.

Market online, but not the MLS… what?

In addition to their offering a market analysis (which is actually NOT market analysis, as no human is analyzing the facts and figures and analyzing anything, it is a computer generated crap shoot), the site states that they promote the house online and in social media marketing – but do not use the MLS.

While I agree social media marketing is crucial in selling homes these days, the MLS is still alive and kicking (and the standard source of syndication to all of the real estate portals). You can advertise on social media, but many active homebuyers will contact their own buyer’s agent in order to then make that appointment.

Avoiding the MLS cuts out any buyer’s agents who may not be aware of your home, as well as those who choose not to show FSBO’s as part of their business model (we won’t go into the ethics of this here, as that is another column completely).

“Avoid the pitfalls that come with using a real estate agent,” the site says

To drive the point home one more time, ListingDoor states that they teach you “step-by-step the right way to sell your home and avoid the pitfalls that come with using a real estate agent.”

Wow. What an amazing statement. This site’s entire marketing push seems to be that real estate agents are the enemy to avoid. We steal your home’s equity and somehow make it harder and more dangerous to sell with us than without us.

The bottom line: ListingDoor ignores the agent’s value

Cutting out the “middleman” may work in some markets, for some sellers who have expertise and knowledge in handling negotiations and transactions – but it’s not for everyone. Buying and selling a home may be the biggest financial transaction someone may make. This isn’t filing your 1040EZ form through Turbo Tax.

I personally wouldn’t want to represent a seller who feels I bring no value to the table, and that my knowledge and skills can be replaced by a computer model. The first hurdle in the sale is finding a buyer. After that is when an agent’s true value is realized, as we keep the deal together and delicately negotiated through the weeks and perhaps months required to close a loan these days.

Our value is not just in pricing a home and filling in the blanks in a contract. When the deal threatens to fall apart, that’s when “salespeople” disappear and “experts” emerge.

#ListingDoor

Erica Ramus is the Broker/Owner of Ramus Realty Group in Pottsville, PA. She also teaches real estate licensing courses at Penn State Schuylkill and is extremely active in her community, especially the Rotary Club of Pottsville and the Schuylkill Chamber of Commerce. Her background is writing, marketing and publishing, and she is the founder of Schuylkill Living Magazine, the area's regional publication. She lives near Pottsville with her husband and two teenage sons, and an occasional exchange student passing thru who needs a place to stay.

Op/Ed

Morning rituals of highly successful people – do you have one?

(EDITORIAL) From start to finish, the daily life of each successful person is very much dictated by their family and job. But there are definitely some patterns that we can all incorporate into our own morning rituals to achieve higher success and order.

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Fleximize took a look at the morning habits of 26 of the country’s most successful individuals to include the President of the United States Barrack Obama, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Steve Jobs and even Oprah Winfrey.

What was discovered? Well, each of the men and women on their chart start their day early with time blocked out for exercise and meditation, breakfast and family. In short, things that are important!

Someone, somewhere coined it best: “If it has to happen, then it has to happen first!” Everyone has an “it.” Anyone who has managed to find professional success is surely embracing this philosophy. The first hour(s) of the day are used doing whatever is one’s top-priority activity. And no sooner do you start you risk the priorities of everyone else creeping in.

Interestingly enough, exercising in the morning is one of the group’s top priorities. It’s been said many times that exercise helps keep productivity and energy levels up and better prepares us for the everyday challenge of achieving all we can.

From start to finish, the daily life of each successful person is very much dictated by their family and job. But there are definitely some patterns that we can all incorporate into our own lives to achieve higher success and order.

An Insider article found that “the most productive people understand how important the first meal of the day is in determining their energy levels for the rest of the day. Most stick to the same light, daily breakfast because it works, it’s healthy for them and they know how the meal will make their mind and body feel.”

The Fleximize chart demonstrates that successful people consider the quiet hours of the morning an ideal time to focus on any number of things: important work projects, checking email, meditation. And what’s more, spending time on it at the beginning of the day ensures that it gets complete attention before others chime in.

So check the chart and find someone you can relate to.

BI points out that planning the day, week, or month ahead is a crucial time management tool designed to keep you on track when you’re in the thick of it. Using the mornings to do big-picture thinking helps you prioritize and set the trajectory of the day!

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Op/Ed

Security of client information is important, so change the process

(EDITORIAL) Too many companies have had security breaches, which is bad enough, but is the process for insuring client information safety too old to secure?

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While it’s clear companies seem to get hacked regularly, the steps taken to keep users safe are a joke. Companies still rely on asking personal questions in an effort to make users feel safe, but those attempts are laughable.

I wasn’t laughing earlier this week as I was setting up a few new accounts.

As anyone knows, creating accounts can be a real pain in the buttocks. But, since I’m kind of a geek, I would sometimes find the humor in choosing and answering my three security questions. (Wondering if I’d remember the answers.)

What band was your first concert?
What was your favorite dog’s name?
Where were your parents married?
What model was your first car?
Who was your childhood bff?

Cool.

I never thought much about the security questions until the last few times when I encountered a few like this:

In which city were you married?

What is the name of your eldest child?

At what time of day was your oldest child born?

How old was your father when you were born?

What?

I felt I had taken a step back in time.

Sure, these questions might be ok, if there were a lot of options, but these were four of the seven provided.

I’m not a super touchy person who gets triggered easily or angered at the drop of a hat. But, these questions made me question this process and its security.

Whether you’re a man or a woman, in this day and age, it’s quite possible you’ve never been married or had a kid. It’s also possible for some folks, they didn’t know their dad. Or, if they do, maybe they don’t want their security question asking how old he was when they were born.

But, the bigger question: Why so very personal? And, from a woman’s perspective, why so presumptive. It made me wonder: are the questions the same for a man or a woman of any age?

I can’t imagine a 22-year-old being asked about the birth of their eldest child. Or, where they were married.

These questions had to be options based on my age and gender.

I chose the questions I could answer like, where was my elementary school located.

But, I didn’t feel safer for answering. Somehow I felt like the company asking them was 1) Prying to gather personal data 2) Not concerned about safety 3) Was sexist.

As many others have argued, it’s time to shut this process down, if only for the fact that it doesn’t make us safer online. This is a practice that should be relegated to the past, just like the presumptive questions being asked.

Seems no matter where you look online, banks, retailers and even medical providers are hacked. Our information is floating in space on the interwebs.

Obviously, security is a top concern. Who wants to sign up for a service only to find out later, “OOPS, our bad, your information was hacked. Here, we will give you free credit monitoring for a month.”

Doesn’t cut it.

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Op/Ed

How we can prepare to slowly start going back into our offices

(EDITORIAL) At some point a supervisor, or manager may tell you to come back into the office. Are you dreading that call? If so, what can you do to prepare for it?

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Returning to the office is an inevitability for most of us. So how can we prepare to go back to work in a not-yet post-pandemic world?

Harvard Business Review (HBR) has some great feel good ideas about how you can return to the office. According to their article, you should “be a source of joy,” and “stock up on patience.” I’d love to live in a world where our situations allowed endless accommodations, but this is real life and as independent contractors, any broker can cut any agent at any time, so we have to seriously keep up and serve clients despite this chaos.

1. Assess your own risk.

Managers will have to work with every team member to assess their own risk and vulnerability. There’s a lot of unknowns at this point, including how schools will work and whether childcare is available. People who feel more vulnerable because of other health risks may need accommodations. I would like to think that workplaces should help to make accommodations as much as possible, but I realize that for some businesses, that may not be possible. Everyone will have to consider their own situation and advocate for their own needs.

2. Prepare for change.

Humans don’t always adapt to change very well. It’s time to start thinking about how the office will change when you return. You may be more isolated due to distancing protocols. There may be schedule changes to prevent too many people in the building at one time. The office may feel unfamiliar for quite some time, which is understandable. You may also find yourself responsible for cleaning your space more often. Expect to have many different emotions as you go through the next few months.

3. Realize that there are things out of your control

Returning to the office is going to be a transition. Focus on what you can control. Manage your stress. In an ideal world, your work would be proactive and provide honest responses to your concerns, but we all know those jobs are few and far between. Don’t expect the problems you had in your job pre-COVID to change. You’re just going to have to adapt to a post-COVID work environment. Only you can measure whether the benefits of your job outweigh the problems. Realize that there are many forces that you can’t change. Your broker or manager may not even be in control of some of those forces and has to adapt the same as you.

4. It’s not your place to change your company’s culture (unless you’re the broker)

HBR asks, “What part will you play in making (the transition back to the office) mean something extraordinary?” I’d like to posit that the transition back to the office doesn’t need to be anything special. It’s just part of the normal routine. Instead, I’d ask, “how can you deal with change while protecting your health and your family?” If your company is putting profits ahead of people, maybe it’s time to polish off that resume and look for a place with some decency.

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